Cleaning Uses for Citric Acid

Updated March 23, 2017

A number of different cleaning products exist for use in different situations. Some of these products contain harsh chemicals or ingredients that cannot be combined with other cleaning solutions, making them less than ideal for use in confined areas or households with small children. An alternative to these harsh cleaners is citric acid, an all-natural cleaner that can be used in a number of different situations.


Rust and surface stains are often difficult to remove from metals without damaging the metal surface. Citric acid dissolves rust and other stains on metal without reacting with the metal surface like some other types of acid will. Citric acid cleaners also can remove tarnish from metals to restore their natural shine, dissolving the layer of oxidation that creates the tarnish. Citric acid cleaners that contain a mild abrasive may be needed in cases of heavy rust or tarnish.

Mineral Buildup

Citric acid breaks down mineral build-up on plastic, porcelain and metal. Depending on the minerals involved and the materials they are built up on, citric acid may dissolve most or all of the mineral deposits or it may break the deposits down sufficiently so that they can be removed using a brush or other abrasive surface. Soaking shower heads and other clogged components in a diluted citric acid solution can remove clogs caused by mineral build-up as well.

Carpet Cleaning

Carpet discolouration and stains can be caused by age, traffic and even pet accidents. Citric acid can restore the colour to your carpet and remove the stains from most sources. A 10% solution of citric acid and water can reduce or eliminate yellowing of carpet fibres, and is recommended over detergent-based cleaners as some detergents can actually cause yellowed carpet fibres to become more resistant to restoration. Citric acid cleaners can also break down the organic components of many stains to remove them.

Cleaning Tile

Because it breaks down both mineral deposits and rust, citric acid is ideal for cleaning bathroom tile or tile floors. Mixing one cup of citric acid with 1 1/2 gallons of hot water creates a cleaning solution that can be mopped or brushed onto tile without damaging the tile surface. Because the acid can kill bacteria, it provides a more sterile environment when used in the kitchen or bathroom as well. Care should be taken to rinse the tile surface thoroughly afterward to prevent etching that could occur with long-term exposure to the citric acid.

Stain Removal

In addition to removing stains from carpet, citric acid can be used to remove stains from upholstery and cloth as well. The acid dissolves organic components in the stains, making them easy to remove with scrubbing or washing. Rust and mineral stains can also be removed in this manner since citric acid can break down oxidation stains and mineral build-up as well.

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About the Author

Born in West Virginia, Jack Gerard now lives in Kentucky. A writer and editor with more than 10 years of experience, he has written both articles and poetry for publication in magazines and online. A former nationally ranked sport fencer, Gerard also spent several years as a fencing coach and trainer.